Christmas trees can bring the ambience of the outdoors indoors with the wonderful aroma of pine, and the beauty of lights and bulbs sparkling on the branches. You and your loved ones have enjoyed the tree as part of your holiday celebration, but now that the holidays are almost over, what do you do with the tree? That beautiful Christmas tree can pose a threat to your family’s safety if kept too long and allowed to dry out. According to the executive summary of the NFPA’s 2015 report, “National estimates of reported home structure fires*," during the five-year period from 2009 to 2013, Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an average of 210 reported home structure fires per year, resulting in an annual average of seven civilian fire deaths, 19 civilian fire injuries, and $17.5 million in direct property damage.
On average, one of every 31 reported home Christmas tree fires resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 144 total reported home fires. Not only should you make sure the tree is out of your home, make sure it is not posing a hazard near your home. According to the NFPA’s safety tips for Christmas trees, dried-out trees should never be left next to your home. These trees disposed of outside can become ember catchers in the event of a wildfire.
What do you do with your old tree? There are many ways to reuse and recycle your tree (once you've removed all lights, bulbs and tinsel, of course):
- Bring the tree to a recycling center. Some non-profits and local parks sponsor recycling projects to assist with their onsite efforts. For more information about how to find or start a Christmas tree recycling center visit the National Christmas Tree Association website.
- Have the tree mulched on site. Do not use this mulch within the first five feet of your home.
- Mulch the tree branches and save the tree trunk in a bucket of sand for a cat scratching post.
- Feed your Christmas tree to a hungry herd of goats. They eat the branches and leave the trunks that can be mulched or used as fence posts.
- Next year, buy a live native tree and then plant it in your yard.
As the holiday season draws to a close, make sure that the New Year begins with practices that insure the safety of your home and loved ones. Take the time to be Firewise when it comes to the timely and safe removal of this year’s tree.
*The data in this report is derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey.